Audi A7 long-term test: the economy in crisis?
"Um, hello there. Is that Sammy's dad?"
"Good. Hello. Sammy's still here at school and we were wondering if anyone's going to come and pick him up."
"...damn! That was meant to be me. I'll be there as quick as I can!"
Yes, I was that dad today. To be honest, Samuel has been at school for over six months now and I'm surprised it hasn't happened earlier. Our household is, socioeconomically at least, quite typical: we have two young children - one at school, the other at nursery - and both parents have to work in order to keep them stocked with Bakugans, Nickelodeon HD and education.
And when both parents work, and one is a top international motoring journalist* whose employment includes almost weekly foreign travel, the daily routine is an organisational minefield of prison disco proportions. Forgetting to collect one of them was bound to happen sometime.
Anyway, we're not telling you this to make a political statement about the pressure of an economic landscape that necessitates two household breadwinners, often to the detriment of familial welfare. Or so I can purge myself.
Nope, this is about a far more important economy than that: fuel economy.
In road testing, the 'school run' is sometimes used as a metaphor for the mundane, everyday stuff that every car has to do most of the time. Our A7 is so brilliant at the school run that it's boring - it's big, comfy, fast, a hatchback, a stunner, blah, blah, blah. But, tasked with doing an actual school run in a state of shamed, desperate panic, this happened...
That's right, the A7 returned 20.1mpg.
Obviously we're not always in such a hurry, but it was a sharp reminder that there's a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine behind that informative digital panel.
And generally speaking, we're getting nowhere near what Audi reckons we should be getting: 47.9mpg combined. Below is the overall average of our time with the car, as calculated by the trip computer:
That's 33.8mpg over 5,174 miles at an average of 34mph. It's taken us 156 hours and 37 minutes - a frightening amount of time to have sat on one chair.
To put that economy in real world terms, it's 7.43 miles per litre. So, at today's average diesel price (£1.47), the A7 is costing 19.8p per mile in fuel. For comparison, if the car were doing its claimed average figure (47.9mpg), it'd be returning 10.54 miles per litre, which would be costing us 13.9p per mile - significantly more pocket-friendly, you'll agree.
Looking back through our fuel book, though, we can see that the engine is loosening up a little - during our first thousand miles or so, the car was returning 6.81 miles per litre.
Of course, the argument remains that with a car so heavy and quick (1.8 tonnes, 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds) anything over 30mpg is decent. We concur, as it happens.
What this actually says to us is that, firstly, we probably need to go easier on the throttle. But mostly, it says that the EU test cycle needs a proper overhaul to reflect the real world. Not a world that, we can only assume, is zero gravity, entirely traffic-less and all downhill slopes.
It's like the Government telling McDonalds it has to show the calorie content of a Big Mac in massive numbers on the menu, but allowed to quote it without the cheese and the sauce.
Follow Mark on Twitter @Nizzle777